Steelers Secondary to be Tested by Browns

New additions for Browns, Steelers to play large roles

Josh Rowntree
September 06, 2018 - 4:47 pm
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden at practice in 2018

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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These are not the same old Browns. Well, maybe. 

Cleveland’s revamped roster, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, may give a steep challenge to a Steelers team that will be breaking in multiple new faces in the defense when the teams meet Sunday. It’s also one that should help them improve from  an 0-16 2017 season.

“They’ve got some new additions to their team,” Pittsburgh corner Artie Burns said. “They changed how they ran the offense and they’ve got some good players over there.”

“I heard that they have 31 different players from last year,” Joe Haden said. “That’s completely different, that’s a whole flip-around. 

Haden likely will not recognize many of the faces on the opposing sideline Sunday, despite the fact that he was a member of the Browns organization just over a year ago.

“A lot of new talent is there that I wasn’t there with,” he added. “There’s a whole lot of people that I don’t know there. But they’ve got some talent.”

Cleveland’s passing game received the largest overhaul, as Tyrod Taylor will start at quarterback following a successful season in Buffalo. Despite the positive results, Taylor has not been viewed among the game’s best passers.

“I think it’s because he runs a lot,” Burns said. “In the NFL, you’re looking for a quarterback that can stand in the pocket and throw the ball, so I think that’s kind of the reason. But he definitely makes a lot of plays on his feet and that’s what got him a starting job. 

“You’ve got to keep him in the pocket. Once he breaks the pocket, he’s real dangerous. He’s like a running back out in space.”

Taylor has weapons the likes he’s never seen before, like newly acquired Jarvis Landry, formerly with Miami.

“He’s a tough runner,” Burns said. “He’s real athletic and he’s a complete receiver.”

“He’s just a really, really good receiver,” Haden added. “Strong hands, very physical. He brings an attitude, blocks very hard. There’s just an energy he brings to the offense and a mentality.”

The Steelers will also have to account for the return of Josh Gordon, who has proven to be one of the game’s best wideouts when not dealing with drug issues off-the field. 

In four career games against Pittsburgh, Gordon has 33 catches for 533 yards.

“I would describe him as a beast,” Haden said. “You don’t see too many dudes like that. As long as he’s out there healthy, he’s one of the best in the league.”

Gordon caught four passes for 115 yards in the regular season finale against Pittsburgh last year. So his presence, combined with Landry, could result in a long afternoon for Pittsburgh’s secondary.

“They’re explosive,” Hilton said. “They’ve got guys that can really make plays on offense, in the backfield, outside. 

“So we know they’re going to come with their best shot. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready, don’t look past them and just play our game.”

Leading the group of new offensive weapons is a familiar face for the Steelers, as former offensive coordinator Todd Haley is serving the same role with the Browns. 

“We’re kind of seeing some familiar plays,” Burns said. “It’s definitely something we’re looking forward to. Having him in the locker room just a year ago and going against him in our first game, it’s definitely going to be a good challenge.”

Aiding the back end of the secondary are a pair of new additions to the Steelers roster, as veteran safety Morgan Burnett was signed in the offseason and a first-round pick was spent on Terrell Edmunds, who will reportedly start Sunday. 

“They’re like security blankets back there,” Hilton said. “They both bring their own unique styles. [Burnett]’s a veteran, so he’s seen it all, done it all. He’s a guy that can cover tight ends and get in the post.”

As for Edmunds?

“Playmaker,” Hilton said. “It’s not too big for him. You could tell throughout training camp and the preseason he makes a lot of plays on the ball, gets his hands on the ball. He’s able to get down in the box and tackle. He can do a lot for this defense.

“With those guys, we feel a lot better.”

Hear more from Joe Haden below.